Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.

business & money

jun
29
2011

How Wal-Mart Swiped JPMorgan in $16 Billion Debit-Card Lobbying Battle | Bloomberg

Interesting behind-the-scenes account of the competing lobbying / PR strategies around debit card fees by Phil Mattingly and Robert Schmidt.

may
29
2011

Cowen Seeing Weak Growth Makes ‘Great Stagnation’ Hotly Debated Bestseller | Bloomberg

Interesting profile of GMU economist Tyler Cowen, discussing his writings, reading habits and (briefly) local food blog. (Via Russ.)

may
27
2011

Public Schools Charge Kids for Basics, Frills | Wall Street Journal

Stephanie Simon reports, “Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus.”

may
19
2011

Savings Calculator

NPR is running a series this week about young adults and financial literacy. To go with the series, I put together a Flash-based calculator showing how much money someone could theoretically accumulate over time, depending on when they start saving. …

may
10
2011

Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters | Slate Magazine

Carl Wilkinson (Financial Times) writes, “How did a drummer who never intended to make money from music end up as one of the biggest and wealthiest rock stars?”

mar
29
2011

Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags | NYTimes.com

Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity,” John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, said. “And companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice, maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same. Or sometimes they add more air to the chips bag or a scoop in the bottom of the peanut butter jar so it looks the same size.”

feb
23
2011

In Digital Era, Music Spotters Feed a Machine | NYTimes.com

Start-ups (such as Shazam) that help users discover music have created new kinds of jobs.”

feb
02
2011

Medical Report: The Hot Spotters | The New Yorker

Atul Gawande writes about efforts to reduce overall health costs by providing better, coordinated care to the most expensive “super utilizers” (the ones with frequent/extended emergency room stays, high-maintenance conditions, etc.).

feb
01
2011

The Road Back To Work | NPR

For the next year, NPR is following six people in the greater St. Louis area who started 2011 unemployed and are searching for work. I designed the series hub page, and in the coming months I may also produce graphics related to economic / unemployment data.

jan
16
2011

Banks allow ads in online checking accounts | washingtonpost.com

Ylan Q. Mui writes, “As banks test new ways to make money and attract customers, they are tucking ads into the list of recent purchases on consumers’ online bank statements. The charge for your breakfast at McDonald’s, for example, might be followed with an offer for 10 percent cash back on your next meal at the Golden Arches. There’s no need to print a coupon — just click the link, and the chain will recognize your debit card the next time it is swiped.”

nov
15
2010

Even Reusable Bags Carry Environmental Risk | NYTimes.com

Oh yay. Michael M. Grynbaum writes, “[R]eports from around the country have trickled in recently about reusable bags, mostly made in China, that contained potentially unsafe levels of lead. The offending bags were identified at several stores, including some CVS pharmacies; the Rochester-based Wegman’s grocery chain recalled thousands of its bags, made of recycled plastic, in September.”

nov
10
2010

A Fighter Pilot's Guide to Effective Communication | Frontline Leadership | Harvard Business Review

Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman applies lessons from his time in the military to the business world. He writes, “Your aim should be to listen as much as possible in order to build what we call situational awareness — a comprehensive understanding of the mission.”

oct
14
2010

'Chance Favors a Connected Mind'

I haven’t yet read Steven Johnson’s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, but (despite my knee-jerk hatred of the word “innovation,” a buzzword overused to the point of meaninglessness) I do like this illustrated whiteboard trailer. (Link via the …

sep
24
2010

Planet Money's Toxic Asset

Back in January, members of NPR's Planet Money team invested $1,000 of their own money into a “sketchy little toxic asset” — a tiny share of a huge pool of mortgages that had been bundled into a security and sold as an investment opportunity.

sep
09
2010

Plight of the Living Dead | Slate

Jessica Winter writes about her “ghastly tale of trying to convince the credit bureaus I’m not deceased.”

sep
08
2010

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe's | Fortune

Trader Joe’s, America’s hottest retailer, is also notoriously hush-hush. Fortune uncovers the secrets of its success.”

Light bulb factory closes; End of era for U.S. means more jobs overseas | washingtonpost.com

What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014 … Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China. Consisting of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they require more hand labor, which is cheaper there. So though they were first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, none of the major brands make CFLs in the United States.”

may
10
2010

may
23
2008

montgomery county budget calculator

Yesterday, the Montgomery County, Md., county council voted on its 2009 budget. As part of our coverage, we rolled out a budget calculator game to allow users to try their hand at balancing the county’s budget. For revenues, the numbers …

may
14
2008

the post 200

On Monday we rolled out the 2008 edition of the Post 200, an annual listing of the top companies in the Washington, D.C., area. The section includes coverage of regional business / economic issues, a searchable database of company listings …

nov
22
2006

texting with t-mobile

Our T-Mobile bill came with a bit of an unpleasant surprise this time around: $15 in extra text-messaging charges. Now, Rob and I use text messaging to keep in touch with friends and with each other, and we each get …